The 20011/12 season has been a memorable one for Christian Maggio. After helping SSC Napoli reach the UEFA Champions League round of 16 and end the domestic campaign with victory in the Coppa Italia, Maggio has now got his sights set on international silverware. An eye-catching performance against Spain in Italy's opening Group C match has helped cement his place in Cesare Prandelli's lineup and it is a privilege that fills the 30-year-old with great pride.
I am an emotional character and I do get excited quite easily, so coming out on to the pitch and listening to the national anthem gives me goosebumps. At that moment, you are representing your country and for me it is a great honour," Maggio told UEFA.com. "So I'm always struggling to contain myself in the best possible way. I just hope I can make my contribution to the team and the nation."
After the defeat by Russia a week before Italy's opening UEFA European Championship encounter, Prandelli elected to switch from a 4-3-1-2 formation to a 3-5-2. It is a system which requires a particularly energetic performance from the wing-backs, who have to be able to help out in defence while also carrying the attack down the flanks. That Maggio met the challenge will surprise nobody who has seen him in that position for Napoli during the last two years.
"From a defensive point of view, the 3-5-2 gives us an extra man at the back and then on the counterattack," he explained. "With me involved, we get the chance to move forward well and create problems for our opponents. So from my point of view, it is a system that suits me fine and I am happy to do it. What is important is to give my best contribution defensively and offensively."
Maggio certainly did that last Sunday, helping to both stem the flood of Spain's myriad midfielders and take the game to the world and European champions. "We have started the EURO well," he said. "We got a good draw against a great team.
Before the match it looked like we had no chance but, in the end, a great Italy side emerged. We competed from the very first minute and we are happy with how we played, so we hope to build on that experience."
Before Sunday, Maggio's experience of international tournament football was restricted to the second half of Italy's 3-2 defeat by Slovakia in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. However, the former ACF Fiorentina and UC Sampdoria defender has come to typify Prandelli's footballing philosophy and will doubtless be charged with providing another all-action performance against Croatia on Thursday.
"In the first match with Spain the tactical system worked very well and yielded benefits, but we will see whether we will use it again or not. The Croatia match is crucial – looking at the table a win is very important for us to keep moving in the right direction. We know we are up against a very solid team. We have watched some clips and they are a team who can cause problems at any time, especially up front, but I'm convinced that if we play like we did against Spain, they'll be in trouble."
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